Legislation from state considers medical marijuana reform

Shannon Smith, The California Aggie

Administration for California is backing Senate Bill (SB) 1262, which would license medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators while ensuring that healthcare providers are regulated in their medicinal marijuana recommendations. This is the first marijuana bill to be supported by police and state legislation.

SB 1262 was introduced by State Senator Lou Correa on Feb. 21, and supported by the California Police Chiefs Association in a joint effort with the League of California Cities. Additionally, nine law enforcement associations and over 5,000 churches in California are amenable to passing this piece of legislation.

“This bill is an example of California coming late to the game trying to marry a currently illegal marijuana industry to a changing public attitude,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “It would be presumed that California would have allowed a regulatory scheme for medical marijuana 10 years ago”.

Currently, the standing laws in California regarding marijuana and medical marijuana usage are outlined in the Health and Safety Codes 11357-11362.9, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and SB 420 in 2003.

According to Landy Black, police chief of the City of Davis Police Department, the Davis police force has dealt with regulatory chaos, piecemeal legislation and perpetual litigation since the passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act.

“This legislation is not an endorsement of the legalization of recreational marijuana. Rather, SB 1262 provides a much needed and long overdue framework to effectively implement Prop. 215,” Black said. “None of the aforementioned consequences serve law enforcement, local governments or patients well. I see this piece of legislation as a more pragmatic approach adopted by Cal Chiefs when acting as an information source for legislators and the Governor, and as a legislative lobbying group.”

Marijuana, also known scientifically as cannabis, is a preparation of the cannabis plant used as a psychoactive drug and for its medicinal properties. It may come in several forms including dried flower or “nug”, kief, hash, butter and pipe resin. Intake varies by individual, but it is frequently taken orally by either edibles or by inhaling its vaporized form through glassware or a rolled vessel.

According to the United Nations, cannabis is the most-used illicit drug in the world.

Earlier generations may notice that the potency of marijuana has increased over time. Since the 1980s, the average marijuana sample concentration has increased from 4 percent to 15 percent of the active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is a result of cultivation and genetic variations.

According to Dr. Barth Wisley, a UC Davis Medical Center pain medicine specialist, medical marijuana is widely used to treat pain. This can be in the form of headaches, cancer, glaucoma, nerve disorder, HIV or Crohn’s disease among other long term medical conditions.

Should a licensed physician in a state with legalized medical marijuana usage feel that marijuana would improve the health of a patient, the patient is issued an official card with which to purchase from an authorized dispensary.

“This bill seems to direct attention toward the doctors themselves”, St. Pierre said. “Arguably, the fulcrum to the medical marijuana industry is the recommendation by the doctor to the patient on medical marijuana. In some respects, this bill could be thought of as progressive by putting all the responsibility on the doctor.”

There is, however, much opposition to this bill on logistical grounds.

“This bill addresses our primary concern that if medical marijuana is medicine, it should be treated as medicine,” said Carla Lowe, the founder and northern chair of Citizens Against the Legalization of Marijuana (CALM). “We made a test study using a decoy patient, and found that a doctor can talk to somebody over Skype and issue a pot card after 40 seconds”.

Several associations would, with greater amendments to the current bill text, support the legislation.

“The restrictions on physicians will not just be an unreasonable burden for the medical community, but more pointedly for the patients who rely on them,” said Kris Hermes, the media specialist of the Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “In addition, while the bill enshrines the right of local governments to ban dispensaries, it provides no incentives for them to opt-in and adopt regulations that would enable legal access for patients in their communities.”

As this bill may be seen as progressive, several see this as a possible shift to even further marijuana legalization in California, following in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington.

“If marijuana were legalized in California, I think that all my customers would turn to marijuana stores for their product instead and leave me without a clientele,” said an anonymous UC Davis cannabis dealer, identified as “Mighty Whitey.” “There is less risk in buying from marijuana dispensaries because it is legal, whereas selling without a license would still not be legal.”